The recent passage of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill, to the tune of $60 billion, was inspiration of this article. Not only do I not think it is not a good idea to spend $60 billion when our federal government is already drowning in debt, but I also believe it is immoral. It has been very frustrating for me to hear people, both republican and democrat, try to explain why the government has to act immediately to throw money at the people affected by the recent hurricane. I understand most people think I am heartless by saying this, but it is absolutely not the job of the federal government to pay for individuals’ mistakes.
You might be asking, “Individuals’ mistakes?”. Let me explain. Every time a rational person buys a house (rational in the economic sense), he or she takes into account several inherent risks in that property. Some people work very hard their whole lives, earn a nice living, and decide to buy a vacation home at the beach. Others decide to make their permanent residence there. Maybe it is close to work, maybe they like the schools, maybe they just like being close to the ocean, there are several factors at work. However, when they buy that house they should understand that the ocean is only a few yards away. They should also understand that it wouldn’t be unprecedented if the ocean made its way up to the streets, especially during a tropical storm or hurricane. While the gulf coast is famous for hurricanes, they aren’t exactly unheard of in New Jersey.
So why, if others choose to avoid hurricane risks by living inland, should the American people be on the hook for the risks assumed by shore home owners? The ocean wasn’t placed there after they built their house. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that a hurricane could possibly hit the shore towns. Why didn’t the homeowners take steps to protect their property? I’m sure they’re blaming insurance companies for not paying their claims, but did they actually read their contracts? When their agent sold the flood insurance, did the homeowner opt to take a less powerful policy to save a few dollars? If they did, why should anyone else be forced to pay for their mistake?
Government intervention encourages this “bad” behavior. If the expectation is that government will pay for a natural disaster, why should I buy insurance? Don’t get me wrong, it was awful what happened, and I’m certainly in favor of donating to the Red Cross or another charity that helps bring food or shelter to the people. There is a huge difference between people willingly donating their hard-earned cash toward a cause they want to support and the government essentially stealing money from the people. If people decide that it isn’t worth saving the shore because it will inevitably be flooded again, then that is a decision the free market makes. If people decide they enjoy the shore enough and it is worth rebuilding, the donating will come in.
To illustrate this point I’d like to tell the story of Grover Cleveland’s (a democrat) 1887 Texas Seed Bill Veto. This story is well-known in certain circles, but many people are unaware of it and I always think it is worth retelling. In the 1880s Texas went through a brutal drought. It is estimated that 85% of the cattle in western Texas died of starvation. Many farmers were also close to starving and resorted to eating their feed corn to survive. Congress immediately jumped into action and passed a bill appropriating $10,000, about $225,000 in today’s dollars, to support the farmers in Texas. Grover Cleveland, who vetoed a record 584 bills, vetoed the bill. In doing so, he made a statement that truly embodies the spirit of the constitution and the free market:
I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.
The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.
Those are truly inspiring words. After vetoing the bill, he encouraged newspapers to carry the story. This may shock some of you, but over $100,000 in private donations flowed in to the farmers of West Texas. Yes, that is 10 times the amount the government was willing to give. Had the government passed the bill, do you think people would have voluntarily donated? This is just another example of how government intervention dulls our senses. “If the government will help, I don’t have to”.
I’ll be honest, I was fooled by Chris Christie. I don’t follow New Jersey politics, but I heard about the way he stood strong against the teachers unions, and I thought maybe we had a true conservative on the rise. But with his begging and pleading for $60 billion from a cash strapped government, he told me all I needed to know about him.
God Bless Freedom, Liberty, and Personal Property,
Slappy Jones II